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biographer of Columba, tells that one day an Irish poet (file) came
to the monastery at lona and went away after the sermon. "Why,"
said the monks to Columba, " did you not ask him to chant us a
poem to one of those pretty airs which the men of his profession
know so well ? " This demand did not shock the pious Columba.
" The reason I did not ask him for a song of joy was that it would
have been cruel for us to do so, knowing that this unfortunate man
was going to be murdered by his enemies as soon as he left the
monastery.*5* Columba's tolerant attitude seems to have been
general. Though such schools as the schools of national law and
letters at Tuam, to which reference has been made, were com-
monly taught by laymen, monks were not unknown among their
teachers; and the preservation of the ancient literature of Ireland
was in large measure due to their work.

For fully two hundred years piety and learning flourished in
happy union in the Irish monasteries. Then in 795 the storm of
Viking invasion broke violently over the country, and the peace
and security which Ireland had enjoyed while the greater part of
Europe was in confusion, vanished, to return no more. Again and
again during the three following centuries the land was harried by
the Norsemen, and nearly every vestige of its culture disappeared
with the religious houses in which it had developed. But all was
not lost. In the heyday of Irish prosperity a great many mission-
aries, impelled by the Wanderlust of their race, had crossed the
seas and had settled as preachers and teachers in the northern
parts of Britain and in Frankland and Gaul; and still more fol-
lowed as the terrors of the Norse ravages increased. In their new
homes they formed a number of little colonies in which they clung
pertinaciously to the language and cult of their native land, and
their zeal for learning and teaching suffered no abatement.
" Wherever they went they founded schools. Malmesbury took
its origin from the company of disciples that gathered about a
poor Scottish teacher, Maidulph. The foundations of St. Colum-
ban (543-615), Luxeuil and Bobbio long remained centres of
learned activity amid Burgundian and Lombard barbarism : the
settlement of his comrade St. Gall (550-645) rose into the proud
abbey which yet retains his name, and which was for centuries the
beacon tower of learning in Western Europe: the sister abbey
- of Reichenau, its rival in power and in cultivation, also owed
* Adamnan's Life, i, 22.